Babasaheb had a deep understanding of the Communist ideology. He firmly believed that Communism could be implemented only by force
Dr Yuvraj Kumar
One of the finest thinkers of Modern Bharat Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar clarified his views on communism in his famous essay ‘Buddha or Karl Marx’. He presented this essay in 1956 at Kathmandu on the forth World Fellowship of Buddhists. Though Ambedkar considered Karl Marx as the pioneer of modern socialism and communism, he completely denounced the ‘scientific’ basis and ‘inevitability’ of socialism, which was the main theoretical plank of Marx.
The way Marxism was adopted in the Bharatiya communist tradition, it remained deterministic and narrow-minded. Members of socialist and communist parties were at least had ideological basis for this but the so called progressive socialist elements within the Congress followed the same path. In the wider spectrum of exploitation and emancipation, the class analysis of Bharatiya Marxists gained intellectual sanctity but they failed to connect to the other factors pertaining to struggles of Dalit, farmers etc.
By 1930, three national level Dalit organisations had already emerged in Bharat. In 1930, Dr Ambedkar formed Depressed Class Association, which later became Scheduled Caste Federation in 1942. Babu Jagjivan Ram tried to build a Depressed Class League. There were Scheduled Caste Committees also. None of these got pan-Bharat character till the formation of Scheduled Caste Federation. The Committees were affiliated to Hindu Mahasabha, SC Federation was inspired by Dr Ambedkar himself, while the league was mobilising Dalits in support of Congress. In fact, for Congress there was another outfit called Harijan Sevak Sangh which was addressing Dalit issues under the guidance of Gandhian principles. The Communists did not find it necessary to open their own front to address Dalit issues. If they would have initiated some efforts in this direction, it would have facilitated entry of non-Brahmins and Dalits in the party.
The main objective of communists was to take over the state and redistribute the land, this they believed would solve all the problems. This was mainly because in practice Marxism has been a closed theory for them and not progressive science. The result was they could establish a dialogue with leaders like Dr Ambedkar. Therefore, for Ambedkar also Marxism was a closed system, which not only remained silent on many critical issues but was also antithetical to the Dalit interests. He adapted some ideas and concepts from Marxism but he did not accept as a reference point for social analysis or undertaking some action programme.
In another context, presiding over a District conference of the Depressed Classes at Mysore in September 1937, Ambedkar declared that, “I am a confirmed enemy of the Communists who exploited the labourers for their political ends, and there is no possibility of joining them.”
According to Ambedkar, Communist system is based on force. What would be the state of USSR once the heroism recedes was his basic question. He says, “Even when the Communism—which is another name for the dictatorship of the Proletariat—came to Russia, it did not come as something inevitable without any kind of human effort. There was a revolution and much deliberate planning had to be done with a lot of violence and bloodshed, before it could step into Russia.” He believed that the Russians were following the communist system out of fear and not because of acceptance. Such systems cannot survive and therefore leads to more bloodshed was his apt prediction about the USSR.
Ambedkar rightly analysed that as per Marxist philosophy communism can be established by two means:
violent revolution and dictatorship of proletariat. Violent revolution demolished the existing structure, while the dictatorship runs the new government of proletariats. It means communism stands on violence rather than reconstruction. There is no value of human life in this philosophy as violent means are justified against the capitalist class to establish the rule of proletariat class.
On the other hand, according to Ambedkar, Buddha was against violence but also in favour of justice. Though some force or resistance is acceptable to establish the principle of justice, it cannot be extended up to dictatorship. Ambedkar being true follower of Buddha was democrat as his heart till the last moment. He was in favour of securing means even to eliminate the worst kind of evil. For him what remains after the force ceases to exist is Dharma but for communists Dharma is a curse. Their anathema to Dharma is so much that they would not differentiate between the values that supports Communism and those that oppose it.
Ambedkar has severely criticised the philosophy of Karl Marx and propagated the need of Buddha and his Dhamma for the sustainable peace. While comparing the two schools of thought, Ambedkar says:
- Marxism is certainly a materialist philosophy in which there is no place for mind or spiritual values, as they are considered as mere reflection of material conditions. Buddhist school of thought is based on the balance between
spiritual and material life.
- Buddhism believes in rebirth while Marxism completely discards it.
- Marxism believes in violence and use of force in bringing change, Buddhism on the contrary advocates absolute non-violence.
- Marx considered religion as opium of the people while Buddha considered it as an instrument of moral development and regulating social conduct.
- Marxism stands for economic equality but Buddhism advocates social and spiritual equality.
- Marxism morally stands for the protection of interests of have-nots of the society while Buddhism advocates moral equality for all sections of society.
- Marx considered economic transformation as the source of social change, while the Buddha understood by Ambedkar helps us to understand and address the complexities of Bharatiya social
system which are beyond just
economic inequalities. Dharma becomes the most important instrument in this process of transformation.
- Communism of Marx believes in heroism and one party rule while Bhuddha’s Dhamma and Dr Ambedkar clearly stand for democracy and individual freedom.
- In Buddhism the roots of sorrow and misery is in lack of knowledge, greed, anger etc while for Marxism private property and economic relations is the sole source of all agonies and problems in
- The spiritual equality addressed by Buddhism is completely missing in Marxism.
In the Buddhist conduct, sacrifice or giving away the material wealth is an important aspect; Marxism is completely in contradiction to this.
Ambedkar had an in depth understanding of both Buddhism and Marxism. His interpretation of both is rational and practical rather than emotional. After comparing both the schools of thought, he concludes that the path shown by Buddha is solid and safest as it addresses the root cause of all problems.
On the issue of withering away of ‘State’, Ambedkar asks set of questions to the communists to which they have failed to give any satisfactory answers. He argues, “Communists themselves accept that the permanent dictatorship controlling the state is the weakest link in their philosophy. They take shelter under the plea that the State will ultimately wither away. There are two questions, which they have to answer. When will it wither away? What will take the place of the State when it withers away? To the first question they can give no definite time. Dictatorship for a short period may be good and a welcome thing even for making Democracy safe. Why should not Dictatorship liquidate itself after it has done its work, after it has removed all the obstacles and boulders in the way of democracy and has made the path of Democracy safe? Did not Asoka set an example? He practised violence against the Kalingas. But thereafter he renounced violence completely. If our victor’s to-day not only disarm their victims but also disarm themselves there would be peace all over the world.
The Communists have given no answer. At any rate no satisfactory answer to the question what would take the place of the State when it withers away, though this question is more important than the question when the State will wither away. Will it be succeeded by Anarchy? If so the building up of the Communist State is a useless effort. If it cannot be sustained except by force and if it results in anarchy when the force holding it together is withdraws what good is
the Communist State?” This questioning put Ambedkar polls apart from communists.
(The writer teaches political science in PGDAV College of Delhi University and writes on Dalit Studies an social movements)